On Jan. 22, 2016, Uber Toronto, an alternative taxi service that uses an app to connect individuals to taxi drivers nearby at lower costs, received a brokerage license to operate in the city legally. Meanwhile, Uber X, the cheaper alternative to Uber that connects individuals to unlicensed taxi drivers, has not received a brokerage license to date, and Toronto city council officials maintain that the service is “illegal.”

 

Numerous taxi drivers held protests in Toronto in December 2015 because of their frustrations with Uber. On Dec. 8, taxi drivers staged a large protest that included over 50 people at the intersection of Queen and Bay. On Dec. 9, hundreds of taxi drivers shut down the Gardiner Expressway and Highway 427. The reason for the protests is that the San Francisco-based company has stated that it will slash the price of taxi services in hundreds of U.S. and Canadian cities. Toronto city council officials have stated that they “understand” the “frustrations” of licensed taxi drivers, but “plead[ed] that [the protesters] end their protest [immediately].”


Uber taxi driver protests have been staged in the U.S. months before they were seen in Toronto and other Canadian cities. In the Dallas/North Texas area, protests began in October 2015, with hundreds of taxi drivers taking to the streets. Uber’s spokeswoman, Debbie Hancock, stated at the time: “Each week, tens of thousands of drivers across the U.S. begin using the Uber app to make money on their own time, to reach their own goals…. Drivers say they value the flexibility and the chance to be their own boss, and choose Uber over other options because it fits around their life and works for them.”


Opinions regarding Uber are conflicted, with its proponents arguing that it provides cheaper taxi services to fit consumer demands. Pat, a regular Uber user, stated, “Oh. Get ready for more whining from taxi drivers crying that this is unfair.” Its opponents, who are predominantly licensed taxi drivers working for registered taxi services, argue that Uber is harming their employability and their wages. “A taxi driver has to make more than $2,000 per month in upfront fees before he makes a penny for himself; would the public be happier if [taxi drivers] go extinct?” asks Ober, a taxi driver. Yet others find humour in the situation, as one taxi driver states, “Uber is an illegal money making mobster…. It got a license from the same city that gave them 96 bylaw violation tickets…. [It’s] all very funny ... how dirty politics work.”

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